Donna Poole has long been a nursing leader in Washington state, and she has led in so many different capacities: as president of the Washington State Nurses Association, as a founding member and leader of the Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses, as a 30-year affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington School of Nursing and as an appointed member of the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission.
Those who have worked with Poole in these many capacities describe her as knowledgeable, ethical and professional. A devoted teacher, preceptor and mentor. Someone who holds organizations together, a power broker and a peacemaker. As one colleague said, “Everyone respects her.”
Poole received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from American University in Washington, D.C. in 1971. During her senior year, she realized she had a special talent for psychiatric nursing. Her first job was as a psychiatric nurse at Sibley Memorial Hospital in D.C. She attained her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from the University of Virginia in 1975 and discovered her love for teaching and mentoring students. She taught for one year at Catholic University then moved west after accepting a faculty appointment at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
In 1978, Poole moved to Seattle, first to work at Providence, managing the psychiatric unit. She later worked as a psychiatric nurse at the VA at American Lake, followed by the University of Washington Medical Center. For the next thirty years, from 1988 to 2018, Poole continued teaching and consulting as an affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington School of Nursing.
Poole’s career as a psychiatric nurse progressed from inpatient services into inpatient management and consultation in Seattle hospitals. Following that she moved onto community mental health at Kitsap Mental Health, where she held various managerial positions. After writing herself out of a job at KMH, a budget decision that allowed her younger colleagues to retain their jobs, Poole paused for a brief respite. The opportunity to integrate mental health into primary care at Peninsula Community Mental Health lured her back. One job was not enough. Poole’s commitment to underserved populations led her to a accept a second, part-time, prescribing position for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Kingston, Washington.
Over the past forty years, first at Group Health, Kitsap Mental Health, and now at Peninsula Community Mental Health, Poole has been a preceptor for many psychiatric nursing graduate students.
Poole served as president of WSNA from 1885 through 1989, a tumultuous period during which WSNA lost the Group Health and Harborview Medical Center bargaining units to union raids. Poole’s steady leadership held the association together through those times of unrest. In 1987, WSNA honored Poole with the ANA Honorary Recognition Award.
In 1982, Lois Price Spratlen, Oliver Osborne and Marilyn Whitley – all members of UW faculty – joined with a small group of advanced practice psychiatric nurses working in Seattle, including Poole, to form the Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses (AAPPN). Expanding the scope of practice was central to the newly formed organization’s mission.
Poole chaired the AAPPN prescriptive authority task force, leading the battle for full prescriptive authority. It was a tense time that ended in a compromise that included a joint practice agreement. While AAPPN members were unhappy with the compromise, Poole convinced them to accept the agreement and continue fighting. Today’s newly minted psychiatric nurses may take prescriptive authority for granted, unaware of the hard fought battles. However, all psychiatric nurses in Washington state acknowledge that full prescriptive authority is an important part of their clinical practice.
Poole served as a pro tem member of the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission from July 2008 to June 2012, before being formally appointed to the commission in September 2012. She continues in that role today.
Poole’s many awards and honors include the AAPPN Nurse of the Year award in 2000 and Nurse Excellence award in 2009. In 2010, she was named Clinical Preceptor of the Year by the University of Washington School of Nursing.
On so many levels, Poole’s contributions have advanced the practice of nursing in Washington state, and they will continue to do so far into the future. Her leadership at WSNA and AAPPN, her key role in the fight for full prescriptive authority for psychiatric nurse practitioners, her guidance of countless numbers of students, and the decisions she helps make as an NCQAC commissioner have shaped and will shape nursing and health care for communities across the state.